It's almost like the term "Black Friday" doesn't make sense anymore. At least not in Anchorage this year.
The notorious crowds on the megashopping marathon started Thanksgiving Day at some stores. At others, lines sprang up as early as Wednesday afternoon. So by early Friday morning, on actual Black Friday, many big chain stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us had only scraps after shoppers rushed the doors Thursday evening.
Candy Hamilton, 30, and Tonya Sell, 27, who live on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, were part of that day-early sprint, but they kept running on fumes through the night and into Friday morning.
"That cut into our family time," Sell said about their shopping trip that began at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. "But money is tight nowadays so we've got to catch the deals where we can."
Both Hamilton and Sell have two children at home and husbands in the Army. Their Christmas lists were long and kids' pining for the Disney Infinity video game strong. That's one of the things they were buying at the toy store around 5 a.m.
The duo had planned their shopping venture for a week. They clipped coupons, capitalized on price matching and took advantage of pre-Black Friday deals offered at some stores -- all to save a little cash.
"You do what you can where you can," Sell said.
Shoppers' tales of Black Friday planning, and lack of planning, were as varied as the items up for purchase. Some shopped for necessity, others for tradition and some just because.
"Well we didn't have anything better to do," said Troy Bowens, a University of Alaska Anchorage student.
Bowens camped out at Sports Authority at Tikahtnu Commons for two hours Friday morning in subzero temperatures with five longtime friends.
Their setup included foldable chairs, hot chocolate, blankets, a portable heater and Red Bull.
Bowens said he wasn't looking for anything specific. He hadn't even looked at the store's deals. Bowens was in it for a shot to win a $500 store gift card awarded to one of the first eight in line.
Then there was Matt Lacher, an Army veteran, who meandered next door at Target just before 5 a.m.
His story was different. He said he needed a nontypical Black Friday.
Lacher has post-traumatic stress disorder and doesn't like to be around large groups of people, he said. So he hasn't been to Black Friday in years, he said.
But Target's 8 p.m. opening on Thursday afforded him the stress-free opportunity to shop for pet food for his blue Weimaraner, Gertrude "Girdee" Anne. He said he went early Friday morning thinking he would be between the throngs of people on Thursday and later in the day.
Across town in South Anchorage, some places still had the classic early morning crowd.
Russell Parker, 46, arrived at Sportsman's Warehouse around its 6 a.m. opening after he saw an ad for $150 off a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle.
By the time shoppers were allowed in the store, the snaking line had more than 100 people in it, he said.
Parker then waited an hour at the firearm counter to fill out the legal paperwork. He said some people in front of him were buying two or three of the rifles, marked down to $579.99.
"I'm the type of person that avoids Black Friday like the plague," Parker said. "With this, it's such a good deal."
And of course, there was the traditional Black Friday sock sale at Fred Meyer from 5 a.m. to noon, with many people crowding around boxes of socks lining an indoor walkway.
Sara Robison, 48, has attended the sale, in which all socks are 50 percent off, for more than a decade. She had about 10 pairs of socks, many adorned with cats, in her cart late Friday morning.
"I'm trying to stay under control this year," Robison said. "I usually buy too many, but I have to cut back."